Answers to the Big Questions and a Hearty Runner’s Brunch Hash

Lately, I’ve returned to reading two books. First the Purgatorio, the second in Dante’s Divine Comedy. My former English professor and deacon at my church in Corvallis has been leading a weekly class lately guiding us through the Purgatorio and the timing feels just about right since the class began the Wednesday of Holy Week and is leading us through this continued period of staying at home and distancing. Purgatory—the place between two more known-of places—seems the perfect description for where we all are now.

If there’s anything I can pick up from Dante’s 14th century poem, it’s that it gets easier as we keep going.

The other book I’ve begun again is Sajah Popham’s Evolutionary Herbalism: Science, Spirituality, and Medicine from the Heart of Nature—a reading I encourage everyone, yes everyone to read. For it guides you back to a perspective I think we all had as children and lost along the way.

I’ve been considering a lot these last few weeks. About this space, this encouraging journal and recipe guide of sorts, my role as a nutritionist and in the community, health and true wellness, and of course, nature.

On that note, I wrote in two questions for a couple of favorite podcasts a few months ago and surprising to me, both questions were answered by the respective individuals this past week. Unsurprisingly –if you know me—my questions were on the topics of sustainability and having a lower ‘footprint’ as a company, and on navigating faith and spirituality amongst busy seasons and family traditions that don’t partake in that faith. I know. I know. I like to ask the tough questions.

So why am I bringing all that up here? This past week my big questions semi-paralleled with those of Brett Farrell, the founder of Territory Run Co., for which I am a content ambassador and contribute seasonal articles. Brett spoke about his own big questions, the clothing industry’s own climate footprint, challenges with community, and more. Check out those here and here. As well as recent contributions on the Territory Run Journal – there are several excellent and thoughtful articles there lately.

What I was really reminded of however, was that in a conversation with Brett about a year ago, I spoke about the draw of trail running, the joy and peace and healing it has brought me personally, and about getting to the know the medicine around me—literally coming to know the plants I spend time with on the trails. Though I’ve only written or spoken about it in pieces, I came to an interest in herbs and herbalism like a lot of individuals. I was really sick, in a way that modern medicine wasn’t going to cure or even temporarily fix. And after a while of taking various herbs and formulas which my doctor gave me, and around the same period spending more of my running hours in the forest, the plants reached out to me and pulled me in, sometimes sharing themselves in profound ways –like being pulled to a stop suddenly alongside a trail, staring captivatedly at one, and (internally) asking, who are you? Crazily enough at times, I’d find I had my answer when the plant’s name simply came to the edge of my tongue, when if you’d asked on any other day, I wouldn’t have known it.  In fact, it happened again today.

And then Brett asked me another ‘big question’ about what it is I really want people to know in regards to nutrition and health. My answer is one I still will give and one I’ll likely give for the rest of time. What I really want you to know about nutrition and health is that if you get quiet enough – go deep enough into the forest’s eternal wisdom, and your own—you’ll find you already have the answers to the questions you seek.

To explain this more since the concept can be a little esoteric, I’ll refer to a couple lines from Sajah’s first two chapters:
To begin gathering natura sophia (the intelligence of nature), we must learn to see beyond the limitations our modern world has placed upon our perception and see the living intelligence of the Earth. And this can only be done through gnosis cardiaca—the knowledge of the heart.

and

To truly enter the kingdom of nature we must suspend our rational thought, let go of our knowledge of botany and chemistry, even dispense with our systems of herbalism—for any potential interference of the mind will get in the way of our capacities to directly perceive the intelligence within the plants. To move beyond herbal knowledge and into herbal wisdom, we must tread the pathway down the mind into the inner temple located just inside our chest.

Bringing this back down to earth even a little more, the answers to these big questions don’t come easily, they don’t necessarily just appear when we ask them or when we want them to. There can be many layers to the answers of how to be a better patron of the planet, or how to balance a spiritual life in faith with the goings on of the ‘real world,’ or how to heal – truly heal the body and mind.

Over time, I’m beginning to realize my role here is to educate about true wellness, about true healing, to be more of the guide—the Virgil and/or the Beatrice (though I claim no Godlike abilities)—and no longer the lost and hurting Dante who I was for a long time. To provide encouraging words yes, and recipes to nourish the body yes, and with those working with me clinically, proven scientific strategies to heal root cause imbalances yes. But it’s also to remind you, to remind us, that we also have the answers. That we’re not victims.

In every relationship whether it’s with me your nutritionist, your coach, your chiropractor or PT, your family and friends, your life partner, or with the plants in your window box, yard, locally farmed vegetable box, or forest, there’s an opportunity for a two-way conversation, a partnership to come to the answers that are already within you waiting to be revealed.

Maybe that’s the point of this slow down period we’ve been given, for I know it’s not for many millions to suffer. Maybe it’s the time to return to our childlike ways, picking the dandelions and blowing our wishes into the big questions, letting the answers present themselves in their own time and way.

Now for this hearty brunch hash.

You’ll need a hearty, though not heavy, meal to refuel the system after your time in the forest– or wherever you go to dwell in your own big questions and their answers. I’ve shared the recipe over on the Run Journal at Territory Run Co. Get the full article and recipe here.

comforting red flannel hash

comforting red flannel hash

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And so it goes. A brand new year. If you have experienced anything like the collective, 2016 was a tough one. The excitement for new goals, resolutions, and the prospect of being better and different is all around us. Honestly though, there were a lot of exceptionally good happenings in the last year too and I’m not so quick to wish it all away.

Even so, I went home for Christmas week to my parents and I admit I ate more than I’d have liked. Not too much, but more than “enough.” More cookies, more servings, more mindless chomping to fill a void I didn’t realize existed until I was there, in it.

 

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And here we are back at it.

We’ve been a whole year now in our new house. I’ll call it new even though it’s the oldest on our street by far and we’ve been here all these months. It still feels new and not quite a home just yet. There’s a blank wall in the living room still, waiting for the right photo, a total lack of rugs on cold tile floors, and the dog fence and house in the back I want torn out. There’s talk though of a kitty–even as there’s the one of us that’s extremely allergic. Let’s just never mind that for now.

Yet we’ve made the place our own in small ways that feel significant. I’ve had food to eat growing since last February and even as I keep kicking myself now for not putting in more of an effort at a winter garden, there are leeks, greens, and roots to be harvested yet, we just finished the last of the Brussels sprouts, and we sat down to a NYE meal that was largely from our own back yard. Small gains that mean a lot.

 

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What do you eat in this new season of reset to get back on track? I tend to forego the cleanses, green juice/smoothies, and cold salads, and just focus on what sounds good. This time of year, that means gently warmed greens that grow through the winter like kale and collards, roasted or steamed roots including beets, parsnips, carrots and the like, warming spices (cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, rosemary, sage, nutmeg and cloves!), hot drinks, and squash.

Lots of squash. I eat it in my oatmeal often, and spoon little cupfuls of plain roasted puree in between or to round out meals because that’s how I like it best. I know. I know. William curls his nose and tells me so.

 

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Comforting Red Flannel Hash, serves 4-6
1 pound potatoes (2-3 medium), diced into 1-inch pieces
1 pound sweet potatoes (1-2 medium), diced into 1-inch pieces
1 pound red beets (3 medium), diced into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive or coconut oil
1 large onion, medium-diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. each minced parsley and fresh dill or 1 tsp. dried dill
add-ins such as tempeh, diced greens, etc.

  1. Steam the potatoes and sweet potatoes in a steamer basket set in a pot of simmering water, covered, until it is fork tender, which will take about 12-15 minutes. Drain, remove, and repeat the same steaming process with the beets.

  2. Meanwhile, heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high and add in the oil. Cook the onion until it is translucent.

  3. Then stir in the garlic, potatoes, and beets and season them with salt and pepper. Flatten the vegetables with the back of a spatula to compact them a bit. Cook the hash until it is brown and a little crispy on the bottom. Stir occasionally, and once the bottom is nice and crispy, flip it over to crisp up on the other side. Once the whole mixture is browned to your desired consistency, sprinkle over the herbs, and serve or stir in the add-ins, as desired.